Monday, January 12, 2015

Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of Jesus
In baptism, we are branded, so to speak, identified by God as belonging to a community of disciples.

Yet baptism is not a simple tattoo or rite or milestone: it is a transformative experience in which the Triune God lives in us and we live in the Triune God.  We become empowered by God’s grace, God’s favor, to live as disciples of Jesus.

We recently celebrated the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River.

The early Christian community saw in this Hebrew “servant” Jesus a calling to proclaim a transcendent purpose for us: eternal life with God beyond earthly life.

And this challenges us today to ask whether we are “in deed” a community of disciples, always trying as best we can to do what is right and good so that we can reveal the glory or presence of God in our daily lives.

You and I should be fired up by the grace of God, witnessing to Jesus by trying, as best we can, to live a life of virtue: self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, courage, friendship, honesty, loyalty, and faith in God.

And as Jesus comes up out of the waters, the power of God overwhelms him and Jesus, all fired up, begins his public ministry in Galilee, proclaiming a new purpose for us.

And as we reflect upon that, we might ask:  whether, by virtue of who we are and what we do, we reflect Jesus Christ in our relationships with one another.

Why be baptized?  To understand that, we first have to understand who we are in relationship to God.

The Book of Genesis captures this very graphically. In the beginning, Genesis says, man and woman walked with God; they had friendship with God and friendship with one another.

But somehow they lost that friendship. They fell from grace. Ever since, humans cried out for God’s friendship.

God, through Christ and empowered by the Spirit, re-establishes that friendship.

Thus baptism initiates us into a fellowship of grace.  Our God is a God of love; and our response to God’s love – and to everything created by God -- is gratitude.

This same God challenges us to support virtues in our families: caring for aging parents; cherishing life from beginning to end; being faithful with our marriage promises; respecting the rights of our siblings and others; speaking the truth; not exploiting people or treating them as objects; and being generous.

And so I invite us to renew our own baptismal promises, to live as sons or daughters of God, to be a living gospel to others in this year of faith.

Someone wrote that “you and I are writing our own gospel, a chapter each day, by the deeds we do, by the words we say.  Pray for the grace to write your own living gospel so that others will recognize in you the glory or presence of God.

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